Katie Taylor goes the distance in successfully defending world title
Bray boxer pushed all the way by Jessica McCaskill in York Hall but emerged unscathed
Taylor and McCaskill in action. Photo: Tim Goode/PA Wire
It closes a stunning first year in the paid ranks with a tough and hard fought unanimous points win over American Jessica McCaskill, bringing Taylor’s record to eight wins from eight professional outings and also claiming the first headline act in Britain for a woman’s professional fight.
“It was a very, very tough fight. It was probably the toughest fight of my career,” said Taylor afterwards.
It has been just over 12 months since the Bray 31-year-old turned the disappointment of a failed trip to the Rio Olympics in 2016 into a meteoric rise to the top of the 135 lb weight division, where she is now well placed to unite the belts in 2018.
Her promoter Eddie Hearn and manager Brian Peters have promised at least one fight in Dublin, probably in the Three Arena. It would be Taylor’s first meaningful bout in her home country since she first fought in the National Stadium as a teenager.
McCaskill had been calling out Taylor for several months after the frustrated Irish champion had aired the view that it was proving difficult for her to attract quality opponents, while the coach of the American 33-year-old Rick Ramos stung when he said Taylor was not respecting women’s boxing
As little as Taylor allows grudge enter her thinking, McCaskill’s camp had certainly pressed some of the right buttons.
But from the first round Taylor fell into her groove, instantly assuming a technical superiority with crisp jabbing, as puncher McCaskill (5-1 before the bout) stood solid also jabbing with her left. It was a sounding out round for the title holder, a combination coming early in the round but Taylor was content to fight from a distance.
The champion slipped in the second but was on her feet in an instant as McCaskill tried to draw her in. But Taylor held her discipline, taking a step back and out of range, although the American kept marching forward her punches largely falling short.
Although Taylor was warned by English referee Howard Foster for holding in the third round, McCaskill began to mark up, a swelling on the left side of her forehead testament to the blows penetrating her defence. But the American kept coming forward and into the fourth round was trying to load up with her big right hand and also suck Taylor into some close work.
Hand speed superiority and an unwillingness to get involved kept Taylor in front. Despite her inclination to go toe-to-toe, Taylor remained patient and kept boxing from a distance.
It continued that way into the fifth round with Taylor finding a way through with her right hooks and while McCaskill stayed durable and bravely kept coming forward, the sense was she was that her greatest hope was a mistake from the champion or a misstep.
There was a taste of what the American was looking for when she wobbled Taylor with a left hook at the start of the sixth and brought up the tempo but Taylor went into the seventh clearly ahead.
Warned in the seventh and a point deducted from Taylor for holding again, McCaskill continued to rough up the champion in perhaps Taylor’s worst round of the fight.
The closing rounds were tired exchanges with Taylor trying to stay safe with scoring and moving, but clearly out boxing her opponent.
McCaskill looked for a dramatic big finish in the 10th round but it didn’t come, Taylor beating her to the punch and continuing what she had begun in the first round.
It was a brave effort from the 33-year-old but the three judges went with the common view that Taylor would finish her 2017 eight wins from eight.
The score cards showed the belt would remain in Dublin, the numbers 97-92, 97-92, 98-91 in favour of Taylor. Still a winner, still a WBA lightweight champion.